If you’ve been enjoying the benefits of working from home – hello sleep-ins, gourmet lunches and 3pm walks – welcome to the club.
As our jobs slowly return to the office, many of us are wondering how we can keep reaching our health goals without the flexibility of working from home. Lockdown has taught people the myriad of benefits that come with walking, because frankly we had nothing else to do! But returning to office life doesn’t mean we need to say goodbye to feeling fit, active, and healthy.
Many organisations are realising the positive outcomes that arise when people increase activity levels and spend time outdoors. Not only does your mental health benefit greatly, but studies show that your overall productivity is also significantly improved. And what employer doesn’t love productive employees!
I had a chat to the ladies who head up Wild Women – Di Westaway, our Founder and CEO, and Susannah Miall, our General Manager – who have some epic tips for maintaining physical and mental wellbeing when back at the office.
Little habits, BIG result
We all know sitting all day isn’t great for us, so I asked both Di and Susannah how we can make an effort to counteract the negative effects of this when you have a sedentary desk job. Their response: changing little behaviours throughout your day.
It takes between 200-300 days to change a habit, so making small changes in your behaviour can have a significant impact on your wellbeing – if you stick to it!
- Use a stand-up desk for some of the day
- Take walking meetings
- Swap Friday drinks for a sip-and-stroll
- Schedule a lunchtime workout a couple of days a week
- Sign up for a team goal that makes wellbeing a priority, such as Coastrek
- And, importantly, support and celebrate these behaviours with one another.
But what if your workplace just doesn’t ‘get it’?
It’s hard to stay healthy when your boss or workmates are doing the opposite. When everyone else is sitting all day, eating at their desks and using chocolate or coffee to power through the 3pm slump, it can be tricky to make healthier choices. I asked Di and Susannah what they would suggest doing if your boss or employer frowns upon things like lunchtime workouts or going for a walk to get some fresh air.
Susannah suggested that the first step would be to find out what the barriers may be, and then share your reasons why activity is beneficial. Understand one another and discuss what would work for the employer. You may like to provide some research as to why this would benefit the organization, focusing on thing such as productivity, absenteeism and presenteeism.
Another option is to suggest a 20-minute walk at lunchtime once a week, and invite your boss or colleagues to join you. You can use this time to connect outside the office environment, which may help grease the wheels.
Susannah provided some great insight into the outcomes of physical activity: “Physical activity is essential for good overall health and has been shown to have many specific health benefits, both physical and mental. Physically active employees tend to have stronger immune systems, are more focused and productive, have a more positive attitude and can cope better with stressful situations.”
Everyone in your team would benefit from healthier choices, so you have a great opportunity to be an agent of change!
Work smarter, not harder – tips for employers
We know that there are clear benefits for employees, but there are also huge upsides for businesses. Di and Susannah shared why workplaces love healthy, happy staff. “Research has shown that employees who get at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week take an average of 4.1 fewer sick days per year.” Healthy employees are generally more productive, focused and happier at work – which is good for the bottom line.
So, I asked the pair how you can encourage your team to adopt healthy habits. Based on evidence that shows culture comes from the leaders, Di and Susannah both strongly believe that walking the talk is key. Setting an example for your employees will encourage others and support this shift within the workplace.
Celebrating these healthy behaviours is also vital. All of us like a little pat on the back now and then, so be there for your team when they need those words of encouragement, and when they achieve, be there to congratulate them.
Some tips from Di and Susannah for employers:
- Make the behaviours simple and inclusive. Walking and stretching are great options.
- Remove barriers (e.g. casual dress and comfortable shoes can be okay some days, leave a pair of runners in the office).
- Environment is key. Give your team access to standing desks, areas for stand-up meetings and lunch spaces away from desks.
- Flexible working which allows people to fit in a gym class at lunch. Convenience is key.
- Provide healthy snacks and don’t have plentiful unhealthy snacks (such as cookies or chips) available in the work kitchen.
- Get your team involved in a goal such as Coastrek! The event brings together the benefits of physical, mental and social health while supporting a team-driven goal. The training program provides some structure allowing for the formation of new behaviours (for example, your team may choose to meet every Monday afternoon and Wednesday morning to walk together.) This also brings many unintended consequences when people have a chance to connect with each other away from their desks.